Since the Founding of the United States, white men have enjoyed the privileges that come with obtaining a job and the wealth generated from it. After more than two-centuries later, the workforce has grown and changed significantly. White men are no longer the majority group represented in the workforce. With the addition of women and other racial minority groups, every group is now participating in the workforce. However, not everyone is treated equally despite the implementation of the Civil Rights Act which is supposed to outlaw discrimination in the workplace. Although the workforce is now incredibly diverse, White men still reap most of the rewards, accumulating more wealth than anyone other ethnic group, including women, with the exception of Asian men. So why has discrimination not been eliminated from the workforce? It is in part due to many factors including racial discrimination and stereotypes against minorities in the hiring process, better employment opportunities for whites for higher wage jobs, and the culture of the workplace.
The data provided by the U.S. BLS, shows a very distinguishable racial inequality when it comes to the incomes of different races in our country. Non-Hispanic Whites have a much lower unemployment rate compared to Black or Latino Americans, especially when considering white people have half the unemployment rate than that of black people (26). Historically, as we’ve read in our chapters, wages and unemployment for white Americans have been higher and lower, respectively, when compared to other racial categories with White men having the highest of any group. This is due to many factors including racial discrimination against minorities in the hiring process and better employment opportunities for whites for higher wage jobs. As we read about Julie’s case in Two Views on Inequality and Discrimination, when she thought about applying for a job, she knew that because of where she lived, in Harlem, that her chances of getting that job were slim because places don’t want to hire people from Harlem, a very populated neighborhood in New York where people of color, especially black Americans, reside. The many charts found in Labor Market Inequality by the Numbers, show the differences between the incomes of the different racial groups from a previous year to the most recent year the book has information on. I think what is important to remember is how little the purchasing power wages have increased since the federal minimum age 1st came into effect, peaking in 1968 (13). Since we know from reading the book that the purchasing power of wages now are actually less than back then, the people making the least are hurting the most. Generally, these lower wages stem from service jobs which are held by a lot of people of color whereas more whites have access to higher paying jobs in office and managerial positions (30). This would give at least one example as to how to interpret the data from the BLS, seeing as how white men earn more money than any other group due to the access to better employment opportunities than women and people of color. Whites are also more represented in ‘white collar jobs’ while Blacks and Hispanics are more represented in the low-wage jobs, which are shrinking due to a changing economy and advances in technology, on top of the fact that there are a lot of people already working low-wage jobs (28-29).
In many instances, applicants who are not white males have already been prejudged before they get an interview. In one example, the authors explain that institutional interactions, including perception, choice, as well as socialization can help us understand the difficulties of escaping stereotypes and biases (174). This is because we as a society have been and still are very segregated which has affected the housing market where whites moved to the suburbs and job growth followed, leaving many blacks stuck in the inner cities with few opportunities (174). Schools in the inner cities simply could not provide equal educational opportunities so access to college was very much limited. All of this created a cycle that has reinforced stereotypes about blacks. Another example describes job discrimination which reduces the reward from obtaining an education, which then minorities and women may feel less inclined to get educated or may choose a completely different route that doesn’t lead to the high paying jobs that white men currently occupy (172). This brings to light the issue that lower incomes of women and minorities, compared to white men, may not actually be because of educational or other choices, but because of job discrimination in and of itself.
Because the market allows for it, consumers, businesses, or workers can discriminate based on race, gender, or sexuality where anyone can claim it is based on economic decisions (77). This is because products can be produced that geared towards a specific target market, or demographic. Other reasons why “market magic” isn’t eliminating discrimination have to do with the culture of a company and society. For example, jobs that have traditionally been held by men, such as construction and engineering, still contain an intense stigma that these are ‘manly’ jobs that women should steer away from (‘Breaking Down Gender Bias in the Construction Industry – GreenBuildingAdvisor’, 2017). But the stigma doesn’t stem from these jobs, it stems from society which has conditioned men and women to fulfill strict gender roles (‘Breaking Down Gender Bias in the Construction Industry – GreenBuildingAdvisor’, 2017). The only reason why markets may not eliminate discrimination in the workplace is by not including a diverse workforce. When a company that hires a significantly higher proportion of a specific gender or race, the company culture lacks a sense of inclusion and instead projects an exclusion to other people and increases stigmas by enforcing stereotypes (‘Breaking Down Gender Bias in the Construction Industry – GreenBuildingAdvisor’, 2017). That’s not to say that the company or the workers themselves hold those beliefs because I doubt that is their intention. But to an outsider, it may appear very discouraging.
In conclusion, although the United States has taken serious legal action against discrimination in the workforce, the fact of the matter still remains, discrimination still exists because it is allowed to in other forms. Whether it is a mother from Harlem who can’t get a job because of the stereotype of her neighborhood, the historical exodus of whites to the suburbs that brought with them jobs and stripping the inner cities of opportunity, businesses targeting specific demographics to sell products while claiming it is purely economics, or the set of strict gender roles that have conditioned workers to look down upon women entering traditionally male dominated jobs as well as men entering traditionally female dominated jobs. It is important to understand, as members of society, that just because discrimination is illegal, does not mean that we have eliminated it from our culture completely.
- Albelda, R., & Drago, R. (2013). Unlevel playing fields (4th ed., pp. 26, 13, 30, 28, 29, 174, 172, 77). Boston, Mass.: Economic Affairs Bureau.
- Breaking Down Gender Bias in the Construction Industry – GreenBuildingAdvisor. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/article/breaking-down-gender-bias-in-the-construction-industry